When Charlie Hinkel gets help in the sugarbush, payment is in sweet maple syrup.
When he moved to his present home in Washington Township he began cutting some trees and cut a maple at the right time of year. The sap flowed. Although they are red maples, he thought he should try to make maple syrup.
None of the old timers living in the area had ever tried it and he would like to see more people making maple syrup. His father told him it couldn't be done.
For nine years he has been making syrup and the production has increased from five gallons that first year to eight to 15 gallons.
"It takes 40 to 45 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. Our time is earlier than up north because it takes warm days and cold nights," said Hinkel. "We're almost done (March 7)."
The sap flow begins the first week of February and lasts six to eight weeks depending on the weather. This year he put 160 jugs out to collect sap. After the season he takes the milk jugs to be recycled and starts collecting new jugs for the next year.
He said there are enough trees that he could tap 250. He has friends - 10 to 15 people - that come to help and get paid with maple syrup.
His wife and daughter help in anticipation of tasting the sweet syrup. His father couldn't believe it, but really likes it now that he knows it can be done. Hinkel said there is only one other sugarbush around and it is farther out toward Route 309 on Mountain Road.
At first Hinkel used a few spiles made from sumac, the piece that fits into the tree to collect the sap and let in run into the jugs. They were made out of sumac which has a soft pith and can be easily hollowed to make a spile. Now he uses purchased ones with a 5/16th-inch diameter which is more gentle on the trees than the normal 7/16th inch.
"A lot of friends think I am crazy with the mud and snow but you put up with it," Hinkel said.
When he started he made a block evaporator with brick three feet high and placed the pans on top. It was slow.
He built a sugar shack and bought a Maple Pro Evaporator that cooks 25 gallons of sap an hour. The pans are 20 by 66-inches in size.
A John Deere Gator is used to haul the sap from the trees to the evaporator.
He buys bottles with Christmas designs and fills them for presents. Syrup is also given to a neighbor who lets him tap trees on his property.
Hinkel learned a lot about making maple syrup from the web site mapletrader.com.
He said he knows of a man who taps a tree along the street in New York City. He carries the sap up to his apartment and cooks it in a turkey fryer.
A friend, Josh Butz, followed Hinkel around one day and made a video that will be put up on theweb site forhuntersbyhunters.com.